Niddrie Brickworks, Niddrie, Edinburgh


The Niddrie Brickworks, near Edinburgh, was a large common brickworks built in 1924 to supply bricks for house building by the Niddrie & Benhar Coal Co. It had three large Hoffman continuous kilns, and latterly, a modern shuttle kiln. The works closed in 1991 and were demolished.

04/04/1878 – Falkirk Herald – On Saturday the annual meeting took place of the Benhar Coal Company Limited  … The lease of the Abercorn brick and clay field on the company’s lands of Duddingston came to an end as at Martinmas 1877 and the directors decided not to renew the lease and that the company should take the work into their own hands. They entered on possession of it at the beginning of the year now current and a siding is being put in order for a large manufacture. There is a large mass of brick clay on the lands and the fire clay which is obtained in the collieries at Niddrie can be advantageously manufactured at these works with the common clay …

04/07/1924 – The Scotsman – In mid, east and west Lothian great developments of the minerals are also taking place. In addition to the new works and housing schemes launched by the Edinburgh Collieries Company (already reported in the Scotsman), the Niddrie and Benhar Coal Company have colliery developments, a new brickwork and housing schemes on hand … A brickwork to give an output of 20,000 bricks a day is being erected near the colliery.

Below – 1934 – Niddrie Fire Clay and Niddrie Brickworks.

15/12/1936 – The Scotsman – Fatal accident at brickworks. Richard Pringle ( 48), of 334 Gayfield Square, Edinburgh, died last night in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he had been taken after receiving spinal injuries as the result of having fallen over a fifteen-foot wall at the brickworks of the Niddrie and Benhar Coal Company.

Below – 1944 – 1967 – Niddrie Fireclay Works.

1947 – 1969 – The 1985 publication ‘A survey of Scottish brickmarks’ suggests that the National Coal Board operated these works during this time.

Below – c. 1950 – Photo of Joseph Gibb, Manager of Niddrie Brickworks during the ’30s, ’40s & early ’50s. He was probably in his 70’s when this was taken, still working. He died in 1954, age 75 years.

Joseph (or Joe as he was known) was born in Auchinlea, Lanarkshire, in 1878. Aged 22 he was a Foreman Brickmaker in Coatbridge (unsure of which brickworks). Age 32 he was Foreman of Brickworks at Dalmellington in Ayrshire. (I have a photo of him there). We are not exactly sure when he moved to Niddrie, he was still at Dalmellington until at least 1916 (my grandfather and his sister were both born there) my dad says Joe was at the brickworks from the very beginning, so that must have been around 1923/24? They seemingly had one kiln and made the bricks to build the brickworks! When I get the chance to look at the 1921 census, I will know where he was prior to Niddrie. He was at Niddrie until he retired, just a couple of years before his death in 1954, age 75 years. His father Richard Gibb was also a brickmaker, so Joe was most likely introduced to brickmaking at a very young age. From Richard’s obituary, it tells us he started work as a young boy in Auchinlea brickworks, he then moved to Paisley, and then Bargeddie. He became manager of Hallcraig brickworks in 1891. He retired 3 years before his death in 1929, age 80 years! Joe’s brother, John Watson Gibb, was also a brickmaker. Sadly John died after a tragic accident at his place of work in Renfrew when 2 tons of blaes fell on him, he survived 7 days before succumbing to his injuries. He died in 1911, was 35 years old. (Note – SBH – Many thanks to Elaine McAlpine, the great-granddaughter of Mr Gibb for sending the photo and details).

Elaine also forwarded the following undated newspaper cutting – “Meet Joseph Gibb who does more roof-walking than any other man in Edinburgh. He has been making bricks in Scotland for 56 years, most of the time as foreman of the huge Niddrie Brickyards which produced millions of bricks in pre-war days. I walked over the great arched kilns with Mr Gibb the other day. It is literally true to say I walked over them for when bricks are being fired the heat is controlled from the roof of the kiln. Mr Gibb keeps the collar of his coat up on cold days but his feet are never cold. His No 2 kiln, 242 feet long has never been out since 1934. The bricks are made from blaes, the hard grey material which comes out of the coal mines. The blaes is ground to a powder which is mixed with water and then pressed by another powerful machine into oversized and jet black bricks. Mr Gibb upended one of these ‘green’ bricks and stood on it just to show what pressure of two-and-a-half tons per square inch can do. Into the warm vaulted kiln, the green bricks are trundled. They are stacked to the roof but with cunning air vents left in them. The process of heating and firing is continuous and one of the cleverest uses of heat I have ever seen. Five chambers ahead of the drying green bricks, for instance, another lot is being fired at a temperature of between 800 and 900 degrees centigrade. What a heat! You can see these firing bricks through the little feed holes in the roof of the kiln. I was amazed and fascinated by the spectacle of thousands of flame-coloured bricks beneath my feet growing almost to transparency. They looked like oblong blocks of red hot metal. This frightful heat is developed by little dribbles of coal dross let down through the feed holes in the roof. The air vents and the gases do the rest. I have never seen such heat produced by so little coal. It is almost magical for neither sound nor smoke comes from the inferno”

1969 1984 – The 1985 publication ‘A survey of Scottish brickmarks’ suggests that the Scottish Brick Corporation operated these works during this time.

1984 – GISCOL – Glasgow Iron and Steel Company Limited were the owners until the works closed.

1991 – 1992 – Works closed?

19/08/1995 – The Glasgow Herald – The two 68-year-old, 120ft chimneys of Niddrie Brickworks were demolished on Friday 18/08/1995 as the site was cleared to become a retail park.

Below – A lovely photo of a Niddrie brick and metal stamp. Note the stamp has chamfered edges so in effect this stamp would have created its own frog when pressed into the clay. Equally, this may just be a lead impression of a brick frog ie molten lead is poured into the frog resulting in a lead, copy.

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